Coming into this season all the talk was about the San Francisco 49ers and their young quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Most experts were saying that the Niners were going to set the world on fire and Kap would continue his impressive play. This hype was justified the first game of the season when Kap threw for over 400 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers, but since then he has been an average quarterback who hasn’t taken the strides that the Niners thought he was going to take this season.
Three glaring examples of this are the Niners three losses to Seattle, Indianapolis and most recently to the Carolina Panthers. In those games, the Niners have been completely stymied and Kap has played poorly in all three games. In the Niners three losses, Kap has thrown for only 368 yards and zero touchdowns while throwing 5 interceptions and an average quarterback rating of 37.3. His QBR is even worse, that averages out to 11.2, which is well below his total season QBR which is a respectable 64.8 out of 100.
It hasn’t come as a shock that Kap has played poorly against good defenses as he still appears to be a one read quarterback. If his first read isn’t there, he tries to scramble. If that’s not there, he usually panics and either throws the ball away or takes a sack or does something that hurts the 49ers like a fumble or an interception. The Niners have done a good job of running an offense that protects him and doesn’t ask him to do a whole lot, but when he’s forced to make plays against good defenses he hasn’t been able to thus far.
The Niners injuries obviously haven’t helped as he is missing his favorite target Michael Crabtree. Vernon Davis has been in and out of the lineup and Anquan Boldin is now facing double teams as he is the only true receiving threat on the outside beside Davis. The supporters of Kap would say that lack of weapons is the reason why he’s struggling. That’s partially true, but it’s easy to see that he hasn’t made as many strides as expected. He still might turn out to be elite down the road, but right now it’s clear that he’s not. Also, it’s hard to make the no receivers argument as that’s what Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and even Russell Wilson to a certain extent have been dealing with and they find ways to make plays with the guys around them.
Kap was criticized pretty heavily this week by both Superbowl winning quarterback and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer as well as NFL films guru Greg Cosell. They both stated that if you take away his first read he’s unable to go through his progressions and make the appropriate play. Dilfer’s comments have made the most headlines as he said once you take away Kap’s first read he becomes a remedial passer. Of course Kap took offense to this and fired back at Dilfer saying “I didn’t hear what he had to say, but he’s not in the building with us so what he’s saying really doesn’t affect me at all.” The evidence backs up Dilfer’s claim as the Niners are last in the NFL in passing yards at just 174 per game.
Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh tried to weather the storm and say that football’s a team sport and you win as a team and lose as a team, but it was easy to see from his press conference that he was ticked off and didn’t want to answer questions about his quarterback. Recently 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman came out and blamed himself for the Niners poor offensive performance against Carolina and said that he needs to put people in better positions to make plays. “”Anytime we don’t have success, it definitely starts with me, and we’ve got to get it fixed,” Roman said. “It’s something we’re working hard to do. Any time we fall short, I’m looking at myself first and foremost, and we’ve got to get it fixed.” It’s obvious the Niners are trying to dampen the criticism that Kap is facing this season and this week in particular after the dreadful performance against the Carolina Panthers.
The Niners can’t be stuck in the past for too long as they need to get their offensive woes squared away quickly. They head into the Superdome to play a Saints team that is an offensive juggernaut. The Niners will need to put up at least 24 points have a chance in this game. The Niners best success should be as always, pounding the ball with Frank Gore as the Saints struggle against the run. That’s something that the Niners do really well. In saying all that, this game will come down to Kap and the passing game. If he’s able to make the key plays when he needs to, the Niners will win. If he fails, the Niners will lose. It’s really that simple.